Preview: The Tour de Ski Queen Stage

Posted by Jan Kocbach, 04 Jan 2012@18:50

The long stage from Cortina to Toblach in the men’s class is the Queen stage of Tour de Ski – with more than 30 kilometers of skating on an A-to-B course, this stage can shake up the overall standings considerably like it did last year. In addition to the live TV pictures, live GPS-tracking will be provided at This will be like Christmas Eve for Cross Country skiing fans!

The women will only race 15 km on a 5 km course which is skied 3 times – less drama is expected there, although there will be an interesting fight between Marit Bjørgen (NOR) and Justyna Kowalczyk (POL) on a course which fits Bjørgen a lot better than Kowalczyk.

Northug versus Cologna

For this year’s Queen stage, the main fight is between Northug and Cologna. The Swiss Tour de Ski leader has a lead of 13.5 seconds on the Norwegian – and the question is if Cologna will try to get away or wait for Northug.

- I will start fast and try to catch Cologna, Northug said in an interview with NRK TV after the Toblach sprint.  - We don’t need to talk to each other to know that we need to cooperate. I have to catch him, and then we need to work together.

With Cologna being strong in the uphills and Northug strong in the downhills, the two would be a perfect pair at the front. If the two at the front do not cooperate, the door is wide open for the followers to gain significant time. Legkov (RUS) is in a vacuum at +1:28 behind Cologna, but then there are many skiers between 2:05 and 2:45 behind who can form a big and fast chasing group: Kershaw (CAN) at 2:06, Vylegzhanin (RUS) at 2:16, Manificat (FRA) at 2:35, two times Tour winner Bauer (CZE) at 2:38 and Hellner (SWE), Harvey (CAN), Rønning (NOR) and Chernousov (RUS) around 2:45.

Add to it that the weather forecast says snow from 13:00 tomorrow – and it is clear that everything is set for a very exciting race from Cortina to Toblach tomorrow. Note that the race is shortened with around 4 km, which will be an advantage for the two in front.

2010/2011: Problems cooperating

Looking back to the 2010/2011 edition of Tour de Ski, all skiers in the Top 30 except for Dario Cologna (SUI) and Marcus Hellner (SWE) in the lead got sucked up by three big groups (see article including graphical illustration here). The biggest group which Petter Northug (NOR) was part of gained time on Cologna throughout most of the race – gaining nearly 45 seconds from 7 km up to 27 km. However, the group had problems cooperating in the last part of the downhill down to Toblach, loosing more than half of what they had worked hard on gaining in the first part of the race. When the group got too big, the skiers did not manage to cooperate anymore.

In the 2009/2010 edition, there was just over 16 seconds separating the top five Hellner (SWE), Østensen (NOR), Northug, Cologna and Teichmann (GER) at the start. Østensen was dropped early, and Heikkinen (FIN) and Gaillard (FRA) caught up with the remaining four after 15km. The leading six became five as they approached the town of Toblach where Teichmann fell off the pace. In the end Northug won the finish sprint ahead of Cologna and Hellner.

Bjørgen with advantage

In the women’s race everything is about Kowalczyk and Bjørgen, but although Kowalczyk starts 5 seconds ahead of Bjørgen, Kowalczyk feels unsecure about the race.

- It is better with 3 loops of 5 km than the entire 15 km route, but this skating distance has never been and will never by my distance, Kowalczyk writes on her webpage. – In Davos where I was skiing really well, I lost over a minute. So we will see how it will go in Toblach.

Still, it will be difficult to get away for the Norwegian skier who has taken three victories in a row now. 2:26 behind the two in the lead, Norwegian Therese Johaug (NOR) will have a lonely fight to keep up the speed and try to get closer to the leading duo. Kikkan Randall (USA) starts off nearly 4 minutes behind Kowalczyk – with Charlotte Kalla (SWE) and Krista Lahteenmaki (FIN) half a minute behind.


The Toblach sprint was one of the easiest to predict so far in this Tour – with “Les Gens Parka Grande” winning with 757 points ahead of “A favourite victory”. In the overall Roar has increased his lead – now nearly 90 points ahead of Arne Post in second spot with Rolf Z in third.

Illustration Tour de Ski 2010/2011: Splitsbrowser where comparison is done to Dario Cologna. A line which is flat means the same time as Cologna. A line which goes down represents slower speed – a line which goes up represents faster speed. You can see where the grouping occured by observing where the lines get together.

Tour de Ski Favourites Preview: Stage 6

Posted by Jan Kocbach, 03 Jan 2012@18:30

The Toblach sprint stage can become a very decisive stage in this year’s Tour de Ski in the men’s race. This is the race where Northug and Cologna can get a gap to the rest of the field which is so large that they will decide to cooperate on the 35 km long Cortina-Toblach stage.

On the other hand, if either Northug or Cologna fail in the sprint, the race development on the Cortina-Toblach stage can be very different – where a larger field coming from behind can get closer and closer to the lonesome runners in the lead. Then we can even risk getting a field of several skiers coming together to Toblach.

In the women’s class, the sprint will be important for the fight between Kowalczyk and Bjørgen. If either of them fails, the other will get a lead which may be difficult to catch up. Johaug is not strong on skate sprints, but if she surprises everybody and gets some bonus points, she may just keep a tiny chance for an overall victory with perfect last three races.


Again tricky predictions – especially due to Northug’s below-par race. Hans Petter Mathisen won the day with 658 points ahead of Gabriel and Peja. In the overall Roar has now taken over the lead 8 small points ahead of Jossa with the previous leader Piotr in third.

Note! Last time to set up predictions for the sprint is set to 10:00 CET although official start is 10:45 CET for now as we suspect the start may be pushed earlier. The time will be moved to actual start time when the official start list is up.


In the 2010/2011 edition of Tour de Ski, Devon Kershaw took the victory in the Toblach sprint after two of the big sprinters Jönsson and Petukhov had pulled out of the Tour.  Kershaw only narrowly sneaked into the final, taking the second lucky loser spot, but then impressed in the final with by getting a 20 meters gap up the last hill.

Dario Cologna and Petter Northug finished 2nd and 3rd last year – and they will be the big favourites in the sprint in Toblach this year as well. Emil Jönsson is struggling to find the top shape, but is still among the favourites. Also look out for the Russian skiers which have impressed a lot so far in the Tour – especially Petukhov and Vylegzhanin. Ola Vigen Hattestad has pulled out of the Tour.

05.01.2011: Sprint Free Final Interval start, Toblach, ITA
Full results

1. KERSHAW Devon
2. COLOGNA Dario
3. NORTHUG Petter jr.
4. HELLNER Marcus
6. MODIN Jesper
7. JAKS Martin
8. NEWELL Andrew
9. HOFER David


In the 2010/2011 edition, Petra Majdic won ahead of Arianna Follis and Magda Genuin – none of these participating in this edition of Tour de Ski.

Instead Marit Bjørgen will be the big favourite. Bjørgen is stronger than Kowalczyk in this kind of sprint race, and the Norwegian has also showed excellent shape the last days with two wins in a row.

- The sprint in Toblach is nothing for me, Kowalczyk writes on her webpage. – Too short, too fast and too many corners.   [...] Last year I finished 22nd.

Kikkan Randall won the Davos skate sprint in the middle of December ahead of Matveeva – they both count among the big favourites. Also count in Ida Ingemarsdotter who finished 3rd in the Rogla skate sprint before Christmas.

05.01.2011: Sprint Free Final Interval start, Toblach, ITA

Full results

1. MAJDIC Petra
2. FOLLIS Arianna
3. GENUIN Magda
5. RANDALL Kikkan
7. ZELLER Katrin
9. FABJAN Vesna

Race profile Sprint course, Toblach:

Tour de Ski Favourites Preview: Stage 5

Posted by Jan Kocbach, 02 Jan 2012@20:33

The short classic race in Toblach the day after the rest day is a new addition to the Tour de Ski. The race length is something new in the Cross Country World Cup circus – around 30% longer than the prologue. The women are skiing 3.3 km and the men 5 km – and time differences are not expected to be very large in such a short race.

However with a quite tough course and 15/10/5 bonus seconds to the three first skiers, this should not be dismissed as an unimportant stage in the Tour. The course is of the “classic” type – with “long, beautiful inviting uphill slopes” as Anna Haag puts it.  When comparing to other races in the World Cup, the Falun prologue of 3.3 km / 2.5 km in classic style is the closest to compare with – results from the two last years are included below.


Classic individual start races were previously one of Petter Northugs weak sides, but the Norwegian tour leader has earlier performed well in very short classic races, and Northug has also proved lately that he is a complete skier to be counted on in any type of race. In the 3.3 km classic prologue in Falun in March last year Northug was second behind the Russian Ilia Chernousov – with Maxim Vylegzhanin in third. Expect the Russians to perform very well also in this 5 km race. Another skiers who is to be counted in is Dario Cologna who won the 3.3 km classic prologue in Falun in 2010 – will we see Cologna in red after this stage?

This 5 km classic race should also fit Lukas Bauer very well, Bauer being a classic specialist and strong in uphills. This is the last real chance for Bauer to gain some seconds ahead of the long Cortina-Toblach stage, as the sprint on Wednesday is not Bauer’s strongest side. Rønning, Rickardsson and Manificat should also be counted in among the favourites.

18.03.2011: 3.3 km Classic Interval start, Falun, SWE
Full results

2. NORTHUG Petter jr.
4. BELOV Evgeniy
6. MANIFICAT Maurice
7. SEDOV Petr
9. BAUER Lukas

19.03.2010: 3.3 km Classic Prologue Interval start, Falun, SWE
Full results

1. COLOGNA Dario 9:55.3
2. LARSSON Mats 10:00.2
3. VYLEGZHANIN Maxim 10:01.3
4. NORTHUG Petter jr. 10:05.3
5. TEICHMANN Axel 10:05.7
6. MANIFICAT Maurice 10:05.8
7. HELLNER Marcus 10:07.2
7. VEERPALU Andrus 10:07.2
9. GAILLARD Jean Marc 10:07.8
10. OLSSON Johan 10:08.5

Race profile:


In the women’s race the fight between the two main Tour contenders – Marit Bjørgen and Justyna Kowalczyk – will continue. Looking at the Falun classic 2.5 km races, they have taken one each the last two years.  Therese Johaug will as always give the two a fight all the way to the finish – as she did in Falun in March last year were she finished 13 seconds behind Bjørgen and just a few seconds behind Kowalczyk.

Short classic races are also a good competition form for Anna Haag – and the race profile should fit Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen well.

18.03.2011: 2.5 km Classic Interval start, Falun, SWE

Full results

2. KOWALCZYK Justyna
3. JOHAUG Therese
4. HAAG Anna
5. FOLLIS Arianna
6. FESSEL Nicole
7. LONGA Marianna
8. KALLA Charlotte
9. JACOBSEN Astrid Uhrenholdt
10. ZELLER Katrin

19.03.2010: 2.5 km Classic Prologue Interval start, Falun, SWE

Full results

1. KOWALCZYK Justyna 8:07.9
2. BJOERGEN Marit 8:16.6
3. KALLA Charlotte 8:24.8
4. SAVIALOVA Olga 8:35.2
5. HAAG Anna 8:36.8
6. FOLLIS Arianna 8:38.3
7. OLSSON Anna 8:38.7
8. LONGA Marianna 8:39.2
9. SAARINEN Aino- Kaisa 8:40.5
10. LAURENT PHILIPPOT Karine 8:41.9

Race profile:

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